The story of Abirami Bhattar of Tirukadaiyur

Note:This is a supplement to my earlier posts– The God of Geriatrics -I & The God of Geriatrics -II

Tirukadaiyur is one of the 275 “Padal Petra Sthalams” (places worshiped by the 4 saivite savants in the poetic verses of Thevaaram and Tiruvaasagam). It is also the temple where Abirami Bhattar delivered his divine verses.

During the reign of Serfoji I (1712-1728) a temple priest named Subramanya was an ardent devotee of Goddess Abirami. He saw every woman as an incarnation of the Goddess and was constantly immersed in prayer. One day King Serfoji visited in the temple. Everybody rose, but not Subramanya, who was deep in meditation. The king wanted to know who the upstart was: some said he was a mad drunken man and others said he was a saint. The king wanted to find out the truth for himself. He asked Subramanya what day it was. Subramanya said it was full-moon day as he had nothing but the image of Goddess Abirami in his mind’s eye. (It was new moon day). Irked by the “arrogant” reply, the king ordered that Subramanya be executed if the moon failed to light the sky that night.

Coming out of his trance, Subramanya realized the gravity of the situation. He started singing verses in praise of Abirami, his only saviour. He had completed 78 verses when dusk set in; and Subramanya’s future was still in darkness.  At the 79th verse* the Goddess appeared in person and flung her diamond ear-ring into the sky. It shone brilliantly like the full moon for all to see! Thus inspired, Subramanya sang 22 more verses. The King was stricken with remorse for having doubted a saintly man and begged forgiveness. He honoured him and offered wealth, but Subramanya declined. The king then gifted lands to his descendants.


Picture Courtesy: Dinamalar

From that day Subramanya became the famous Abirami Bhattar. Did this miracle really happen? Perhaps not. But there is much credible evidence about Abirami Bhattar. For instance, his descendants carry with them the copper plate inscription evidencing Serfoji’s grant of lands. The anthology of 101 verses he sang in praise of Abirami —popularly known as Abirami Anthaadi +— are sung by devotees even today. (For the faithful, each verse is supposed to deliver a specific benefit to the singer).

Abirami Bhattar went on to compose more anthologies on the deities of Tirukadaiyur: Kallavaarana Vinayakar, Amrutaghateswarar and Abirami herself. The Dharmapuram Adeenam has done great service by preserving such historic records.Only one Anthology, Kaalasamhara Mudugu Vennba, has been irretrievably lost as we have only 9 out of the 30 verses it was supposed to contain.

+There is a very interesting reason why it is called Anthaadi. Anthaadi is a compound word made up of 2 words: Antham (last) and Aadi (first). In this style of poetry, the last word of the previous stanza must be the same as the first word of the next stanza. The first word of every line rhymes with the first word of the next three lines of each verse. Abirami Bhattar composed 101 verses which were consistent with this grammar, with perfect metre and meaning. It is truly a masterpiece, even if you do not believe it was composed in one day!

*The 79th  Verse

விழிக்கே அருள் உண்டு, அபிராம வல்லிக்கு, வேதம் சொன்ன
வழிக்கே வழிபட நெஞ்சு உண்டு எமக்கு, அவ்வழி கிடக்க,
பழிக்கே சுழன்று, வெம் பாவங்களே செய்து, பாழ் நரகக்
குழிக்கே அழுந்தும் கயவர் தம்மோடு, என்ன கூட்டு இனியே?

Liberal Translation:

Oh Abirami! My heart desires to worship you just as prescribed by the Vedas, and surely your eyes shower grace upon me; that being so,  why should I live anymore  among sinners who press towards the pits of hell?


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